What will poor Robin do then? Perforate your small bowel

December 23, 2010

Carelessness at Christmas has a nasty habit of biting you on the bum, research suggests.

One paper published in the British Medical Journal in 1983 recounts the case of an 86-year-old woman who endured two days of fever, abdominal pain, constipation and vomiting before surgeons found that she had swallowed a small plastic robin whose beak had perforated her small bowel. "On questioning later, she remembered eating a piece of Christmas cake two or three days before admission," the paper, "Small bowel perforation due to a Christmas cake decoration", reported.

This is just one of a list of papers highlighting the perils of the festive period drawn up for Times Higher Education by David Pendlebury, a Thomson Reuters analyst.

The dangers of "ornamental Christmas bulb ingestion" are detailed in a 1975 Archives of Surgery paper, which recounts the tale of a 14-month-old boy who spent five months in hospital after eating one. He suffered repeated haemorrhaging "via the colostomy and rectum".

A 2009 paper on "Holiday ornament-related injuries in children" from Pediatric Emergency Care confirms that the most common mishaps are "foreign-body ingestions and glass-related injuries", with more than half involving light bulbs and glass ornaments.

A 2010 Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology paper examines Christmas-related eye injuries, while a 1994 Southern Medical Journal paper focuses on a patient whose diaphragm was paralysed while he was "lying on the ground and cutting down a Christmas tree with a hand saw".

The mould on live Christmas trees is an allergy hazard, but before you dash off to Argos for a plastic replacement, you might care to reflect on the case of a British woman whose budgerigar-related alveolitis flared up when she was exposed to an allergen on her artificial tree.

Also bear in mind the "holiday poison hazards" and the increased risk of having a heart attack or a psychiatric turn over the festive period. Let's be careful out there.


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